SEC Basketball Power Rankings: Tennessee continues to fall, Florida on the rise
There are only 2 weeks left in the SEC regular season, meaning teams only have 4 more games to jockey for position ahead of the conference tournament. There’s a 3-way race atop the standings between Kentucky, Tennessee and LSU, but that’s not the only race worth watching.
The top 4 teams in the standings get double-byes into the quarterfinals, positioning themselves to only have to win 3 games in Nashville to claim the title. Right now, Ole Miss and South Carolina are the top contenders for the No. 4 seed, but they’ll need to hold off Mississippi State, Florida, Alabama and Auburn, in addition to one another.
Then, there’s the battle between Arkansas and Texas A&M. One team will likely have to play in the first round, while the other will at least get one bye. Yes, there’s a lot of important basketball down the stretch, and it should be lots of fun to watch.
With that, here’s a look at how the SEC teams stack up against one another in this week’s power rankings:
1. Kentucky (23-4 overall, 12-2 in SEC, Last week: 1)
The Wildcats continue to dominate and look good doing it. Even after losing big man Reid Travis to a knee sprain against Mizzou on Tuesday, the Wildcats had no problem blowing out Auburn on Saturday.
While Travis misses a couple of weeks of action, fellow big man Nick Richards is going to have to step up. He got off to a decent start against Auburn, thanks to a lob from PG Ashton Hagans:
Ashton Hagans throwing it up, Nick Richards putting it DOWN. pic.twitter.com/wYikw5zOZp
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) February 23, 2019
Richards also had 3 blocks against the Tigers, but he’ll need to continue to provide valuable minutes as Kentucky squares off against Arkansas on Tuesday night before a Saturday road trip to take on a struggling Tennessee squad.
2. LSU (22-5, 12-2, Last week: 3)
The Tigers hold wins over Kentucky and Tennessee and don’t have to face either the next two weeks. Both wins over the Top 10 squads came at the last second, so the Tigers know how to close things out, which is an important skill to have come March.
Without Tremont Waters on Saturday against Tennessee, fellow G Javonte Smart stepped up. He hit a number of big shots, but a 7-0 run he had late in the second half was some of the most-impressive basketball of the year:
Down nine with six minutes to go, Javonte Smart goes on a 7-0 run by himself and scores 11 straight for the Tigers. The last four were simple – slip the ball screen action, drive right, lay it in.
What Marlon Taylor is to jumping, Javonte is to competing — best I’ve seen. pic.twitter.com/wPCVUvhKVX
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) February 25, 2019
Kentucky plays at Tennessee on Saturday, so LSU should find itself in a 2-way tie for first place in the conference standings if the Tigers take care of business against Texas A&M and Alabama.
3. Tennessee (24-3, 12-2, Last week: 2)
The Vols came up short in another road game against a Top 15 team on Saturday, this time in Baton Rouge against LSU. The Vols held a lead, but couldn’t hold onto it down the stretch.
Tennessee’s final possession left a lot to be desired. With the score tied, Lamonte Turner brought the ball up the court and launched a long 3 with more than 4 seconds remaining. That was a questionable last shot, and it ended up costing the Vols a chance to head to overtime:
WILD OT finish for LSU-Tennessee
LSU comes away with the W , 82-80. pic.twitter.com/CEQ5jyGo83
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 23, 2019
Yes, the Vols are falling in these rankings (and are down to No. 7 in the AP Poll), but let’s keep things in perspective. All 3 of Tennessee’s losses have been to Top 15 teams (2 on the road and 1 at a neutral site), so it’s hardly time to panic. However, with a rematch against Kentucky looming large Saturday, it would be a good sign for Rick Barnes’ team if they were able to win at home.
4. Ole Miss (19-8, 9-5, Last week: 4)
The Rebels had a mixed week, losing at South Carolina and then beating Georgia on Saturday. They also needed a late 3 from Devontae Shuler to break a tie with the Bulldogs. Considering Georgia is 1-13 in SEC play, that’s not a great sign, but the Dawgs have played many teams tough lately:
3. DC's Steal and Slam
2. KJ's Electrifying Putback
1. Devontae's Gamewinner pic.twitter.com/vz30ylW7mr
— Ole Miss Basketball (@OleMissMBB) February 24, 2019
The Rebels are in a good spot when it comes to the No. 4 seed for the SEC Tournament, but with games remaining against Tennessee (Wednesday) and Kentucky (next Tuesday), the road to a double-bye will be difficult. Both \games are in Oxford, though, so we’ll see what the Rebels can do with these big-time opportunities.
5. Mississippi State (20-7, 8-6, Last week: 6)
The Bulldogs picked up a tough road win at Georgia last week, thanks to some help from the Georgia crowd. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’ve won 4 consecutive games at a critical time in the season.
Blowing out South Carolina on Saturday was huge for Ben Howland’s team, and it should give them even more confidence down the stretch. Freshman F Reggie Perry has been great lately, scoring a team-high 21 points while snagging 6 rebounds against the Gamecocks in a come-from-behind win.
Games vs. Mizzou and at Auburn this week will provide good opportunities for the Bulldogs to extend their winning streak to six.
6. South Carolina (14-13, 9-5, Last week: 5)
The Gamecocks have been hot and cold lately, beating Ole Miss and then losing a big lead against Mississippi State last week. However, they still have a chance to earn the No. 4 seed in the SEC Tournament if they take care of business down the stretch.
A home game against Alabama and a road trip to Mizzou provide two opportunities for big victories. The Gamecocks still have an outside shot at an NCAA Tournament berth, too, so every game will be huge from here on out.
7. Florida (16-11, 8-6, Last week: 8)
The Gators picked a good time to go on a 4-game winning streak, beating a tough LSU team on the road in the process. That win over the Tigers will be a big one for their NCAA Tournament resume (they’re now projected as a No. 10 seed by Joe Lunardi).
This week, they’ll need to keep that momentum going as they travel to Vanderbilt and host Georgia. Considering they end the regular season with a home game against LSU and a trip to Kentucky, the games against the Commodores and Bulldogs are basically must-wins.
8. Auburn (18-9, 7-7, Last week: 7)
The Tigers have only beaten one ranked team all year — then-No. 25 Washington early in the season. Since then, they’re 0-5 against ranked squads. This week, they have 2 important games — at Georgia and vs. Mississippi State.
They end the year with a game at home against Tennessee, so they’ll have another shot at a ranked win. It’s vitally important that they beat both pairs of Bulldogs this week to keep themselves from drifting perilously close to the NCAA Tournament bubble.
9. Alabama (16-11, 7-7, Last week: 9)
The Crimson Tide had another disappointing loss to Texas A&M this week, but the Aggies were hot (see below). With Joe Lunardi and other bracketologists having the Tide firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, this team needs to finish strong.
A road trip to South Carolina and a home game against LSU loom large this week on the schedule. If the Tide can step up to the plate and win at least one of those games, it’ll be big for their resume. If not, they could play their way out of March Madness altogether.
10. Texas A&M (12-14, 5-9, Last week: 12)
The Aggies had their best week of the season, picking up wins over Alabama and Arkansas and handing both schools brutal losses with regards to their NCAA Tournament resumes. Clearly, Billy Kennedy has his team excited to play spoiler, and we’ll see if that continues this week.
A trip to LSU won’t be easy, but the Aggies should be able to handle Vanderbilt at home on Saturday. With Arkansas’s recent slide, the Aggies could vault the Hogs in the standings and get a first-round bye. That should motivate this team moving forward.
11. Arkansas (14-13, 5-9, Last week: 10)
This has not been a great couple of weeks for Arkansas and coach Mike Anderson. The Hogs are collapsing before our eyes, losing 5 consecutive games to fall out of the NCAA Tournament picture.
With a game at Kentucky and at home against Ole Miss this week, the struggles could continue. Will Anderson be able to survive this mess? With a talent like potential lottery pick Daniel Gafford on the team, missing out on March Madness will be a bitter pill for this fanbase to swallow.
12. Mizzou (12-14, 3-11, Last week: 11)
An 8-point loss to Kentucky and a 4-point road loss against Florida are hardly embarrassing, but the Tigers just don’t have enough firepower to get the job done consistently this year. They are solid defensively, though, and score just enough to be dangerous.
No, they aren’t going to be favored in many games the next couple of weeks (if any at all), but with PG Jordan Geist continuing to play well, the Tigers can sneak up on people. This week, Mississippi State and South Carolina will have to be on their guard to avoid an upset at the hands of Mizzou.
13. Georgia (10-17, 1-13, Last week: 13)
The Bulldogs continue to fight hard, but they ended up losing 2 more games last week by a combined 2 points. Wednesday night’s loss to Mississippi State was particularly brutal, as they fought back to tie the Bulldogs before a technical foul was called on the Georgia crowd for throwing a stuffed animal on the court.
Then, they battled back against Ole Miss on Saturday, too, before coming up just short. This team is on the verge of breaking through, but they haven’t quite figured out how to seal a victory. They could still pull off an upset down the stretch, but for now, the focus should be on the 2019-20 season.
14. Vanderbilt (9-18, 0-14, Last week: 14)
Another week has passed, and that means another 2 losses for Vanderbilt, which fell to Tennessee and Alabama. That marks 15 consecutive losses for the Commodores, who haven’t won an SEC game so far.
How bad has Bryce Drew’s team been? They haven’t won a game in 2019 yet, with their last victory coming on New Year’s Eve over UNC-Asheville. Games vs. Florida and at Texas A&M this week don’t look promising for the Commodores, either.